6 great examples of advertising as utility

It’s fast becoming the case that there are only two salient strategies in digital advertising. Either help me, or entertain me. Gone are the days when ‘interruption’ was the goal of advertising.

Of course, brands need to keep in mind context & provide customer bullseye relevant content. More than this though, the best brands now see themselves as facilitators. Marketing/advertising as utility has been a trend bubbling under the surface for the past year or two, and CMOs are quickly waking up to the opportunity.

Brand Utility can take many forms. From travel brands providing city guides, to FMCG brands providing YouTube cooking lessons, to mobile networks providing phone charging at festivals, but generally when we talk about this trend, we’re referring to real utility. Something which makes you go ‘Ah, what a clever idea/handy innovation’.

Here are 6 great examples of what I mean.

1: Nike create urban football pitches using lasers

A brand that’s never afraid to embrace a new trend, Nike has been at the forefront of branding as utility for quite a while. This simple idea from earlier in the year saw the brand turn rough & ready patches of urban ground into marked out football pitches, creating flexible urban sports infrastructure that the city council has no issues with, and, importantly, that afforded local youths a sporting outlet.

2: Peruvian billboard creates water from air

Like the Oreo tweet for ‘real time marketing’ this example has been the face of ‘advertising as utility’, and if you’re interested in the space, you’ve likely heard of it.

In humid, arid Lima, University of Engineering and Technology in Peru has created the first advertising billboard in the world to make drinking water out of thin air. Due to the extremely dry climate, annual precipitation is less than 1 inch, many people draw water from wells that are often polluted. Killing three birds with one stone, the university decided to come up with a way to solve this water issue for a local village, showcase its engineering prowess and advertise itself all in one swoop.


3: Adidas Runbase

Another sporting example, this time from Ze Germans. Many Tokyo commuters love to go for a run either early in the morning or before they head home to the suburbs in a leafy city centre park. However, the sweaty Tokyo heat, and lack of any safe keeping facilities are key issues. Adidas decided, simply, to help! They created ‘Runbase’ a facility where runners can rent a locker and shower, as well as a branded space selling a variety of shoes and apparel, located  near a major subway station.  Staff are on hand to provide training tips, and visitors can even rent Adidas running shoes for 100 yen — about $1.20 — the price of a bottle of water.

4: Ikea Siesta Rooms

Ikea is another brand that’s not afraid to stand out with smart advertising ideas. Understanding that driving can be tiring, and a nap in the car can be incredibly uncomfortable, Ikea came up with the idea of sleeping pods, dotted along one of France’s busy routes. Drivers can take a quick nap in the branded pods, for free, and of course each pod is decorated with Ikea products. There are even helpers on hand to take care of driver’s kids.


5: IBM’s smart furniture advertising

IBM’s mantra is based around the idea of helping mankind, and cities, get smarter. The brand teamed with Ogilvy to create outdoor advertising with a purpose: a bench, a shelter and a ramp that are not only designed to be beautiful, but to be useful to city dwellers as well. This is incredibly simple, but just very smart.


6: Nivea solar charging print ad

Marrying traditional print with digital utililty, Nivea realised that your phone battery failing while lazing on the beach is very frustrating, and partnered with a Brazilian magazine to offer a novel solution,  an ad that incorporated a solar powered USB charger, so readers can charge their phones without needing an electrical outlet – even on a beach.